Two UNPO members travelled to Turkey for the Youth in Action training on “The Causes and Advantages of Youth Mobility and European Migration”. The destination, contrary to the popular image of Turkey as a destination for tourism, was its Kurdish city, Diyarbakir. No sea, no tourists, but friendly hosts and a beautiful introduction to the culture and religion. Upon our arrival, we immediately experienced a very warm welcome and the hospitality of Kurdish people. Having spent 8 hours ‘on the road’ without any sleep, we weren’t expecting much more than a bed and a pillow. Yet, once we stepped outside into the unexpectedly warm night air with two other participants from Spain, we received a warm welcome and a car ride to an unfamiliar place, which did not look like the agreed location. Little did we know this day would be so memorable and begin our cultural experience.
We arrived very late at night (or very early in the morning, whichever way you look at it), and therefore spent a couple hours in one of the organizers’ home instead of the training accommodation. We were woken up by the smell of a delicious combination of a Turkish and Kurdish breakfast and the laughs of the other participants who had just arrived. Other organizers also joined us later in the afternoon, and a nice breakfast turned into a lazy early afternoon snacks. Just what we needed after a long trip. Drinking Turkish tea and getting to know participants and organizers better was one of the most memorable moments of the day. After a tasty and quite filling lunch in the city center, followed by a cup of Turkish coffee and fortune telling, we realized food was an integral part of the culture of the region. We certainly enjoyed that part! However, being still tired from the trip we couldn’t quite grasp the concept of the ‘tavla’ game (backgammon) commonly played in any coffee place. Watching others play was entertaining enough. Learning to play the game would be on the “to-do” list for out next visit!
The last cultural experience for the day was the bus ride to the accommodation. Given that many participants arrived at different times, they were scattered around different locations of Diyarbakir. Gathering them all together was no easy task, yet the organizers found a creative solution: the ‘fit-them-all’ minibus, which later became the start of many good stories from the training. Driving around Diyarbakir makes you forget any driving rules ever existed and embrace the cultural experience of sitting and standing in any position imaginable in order to fit everyone in one bus. The warmth of the air inside and outside made the experience even more unforgettable. Frightening and odd at first, the practice became familiar and even entertaining by the end of the training course. Arriving at our accommodation and getting to know your roommates was a good ending to an even better day.